A driving instructor watches as a teen driver reverses the vehicle

Tips to Help Your Teen Drive Better

Updated March 14, 2022 . AmFam Team

Discover tips for teaching your teens to drive safely, confidently and smartly. Take their skills to the next level with these helpful pointers.

From perfectly-timed turn signals to parking like a pro at the grocery store, your teen has mastered the basics of driving. Before they take their driving test and experience their newfound freedom, help them fine-tune their skills with new routes and routines that help them make smart, safe choices behind the wheel.

5 Ways To Improve Your Teen’s Driving Skills

Part of teaching your child how to drive is practicing the most common skills a driver needs on the road. Driving practice can help develop the confidence needed to maneuver around on the road. Supervised driving also allows you to set a good example for safe driving practices during traffic situations your child will face. Let’s review the five helpful tips below.

Harness the power of highways

Exposing your teen to the highway may seem like a leap of faith, but with a little practice, patience and confidence, your teen will be merging like a pro in no time!

To begin, practice going on and off ramps. Before merging on the highway with traffic, just use the ramp to give them the opportunity to feel and experience the steps necessary to enter the highway. A simple trip on and off the ramp should do it!

Next, practice merging with traffic and changing lanes. Teach your learning driver to check their blind spots for other motorists, and make smooth transitions between lanes when necessary.

Then, when they feel confident in these basic skills, try driving together in heavy, rush-hour traffic. Give them the feel for a highway at all times of the daily traffic cycle.

Practice the tricky stuff

Say hello to everyone’s (not so) favorite activities — parallel parking and parking on a hill. Though they may not be very popular, there will definitely be occasions where your teen will find themselves in need of these skills to park.

Rehearse in reverse

Reversing is a skill your teen will need to hone if they want to be good drivers on the road. Teach them how to back up in busy areas occupied by a variety of people, foot traffic and pedestrians. Like a busy parking lot, for example. Watch to make sure they physically look behind their car before pulling out and remember — always check your blind spots!

Master the elements

On a rainy or snowy day, drive to a familiar destination, and then try driving to a new destination. They will need to be comfortable driving in the elements, whatever those may be, to avoid hazardous behaviors down the line. For example, teach your teen about the added distance necessary to come to a complete stop when the ground is wet, icy or snowy. Let them compare the stopping distance in normal and inclement weather to get a good idea of the distance they’ll need when they drive.

The long haul

Sometimes, our adventures take us to far away destinations. Teach your student driver the skills needed for long distance trips. Prepare them to focus on the drive and to be comfortable in unfamiliar locations.

Take at least one road trip that’s an hour in each direction on a highway. Bonus points if you get ice cream somewhere along the way!

5 Ways to Help Your Teen Driver Drive Smarter

Part of a comprehensive driver’s education for your teen involves teaching key concepts of driving and discussing rules of the road. Ensure your learner’s permit driver understands how to maneuver the vehicle in the following situations, along with the do's and don'ts of driving.

Scenario planning

It’s completely possible that your teen won’t encounter certain situations before they get their license. Take time to talk through how to handle less common situations: pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, deer crossings, blind spots, etc.

Speedy stops

Practice the feel of stopping while driving 25 or 30 mph so they can get used to how the anti-lock brakes stop a vehicle. Learning the way a vehicle stops in various conditions, as previously mentioned, is a critical factor in driver education.

Prep for left

Practice making left turns in traffic – and explain how to avoid pulling in front of another car.

Learn the loop

Many cities and towns use roundabouts in conjunction with standard traffic signals. You may not see many of them near you but, if you have the opportunity, teach your driving student how to tackle roundabouts. Explain the rules of entering and leaving the circle — it’s a crucial piece of driver education. Hold on!

Introduce their trip buddy

Teach them how to follow GPS instructions safely while en route to a destination – like setting the endpoint before they even start driving.

Discuss the don’ts

Never drive without a seat belt. According to a 2012 study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, teens with provisional and unrestricted licenses in states where seat belt laws are not strictly enforced are almost 15 percent less likely to wear a seatbelt as passengers or drivers than teens in states with more strict laws.

What this means is that if states do not reinforce the importance of seat belt use, teens may be less likely to buckle up, placing them at a much higher risk of injury, or worse, in a crash.

Obey speed limits. It’s easy for a new driver to underestimate the power of a vehicle, especially on the highway. As your teen works toward a driver license, teach them that speed limits are to always be obeyed for their safety and the safety of others on the road, too.

Leave the cell phone alone. In recent years, distracted driving due to texting has led to a significant increase in car crashes among younger drivers. Talk to your teen about the dangers of texting while driving and make sure they understand that the message can wait. Driving requires focus!

Drive sober, always. Drinking and driving is one of the leading factors in fatal crashes nationally.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

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